Business leaders' wish list: county mayor, non-partisan elections, clout with Republicans

The top leaders of the Broward Workshop answered a range of questions Thursday from reporters and editorial writers at the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board.

"We're not here representing anything but, I truly believe, the best interests of the county," said Workshop Chairman Dr. Harry Moon.


Moon is president of Himmarshee Surgical Partners and former chief executive officer of Cleveland Clinic Florida.

"We're not looking for publicity. We're not interested in having our pat on the back, and our name thrown around. We're more interested in behind the scenes if that's what it takes to get things done," said Vice Chairman Charles Caulkins.


He's the managing partner of the Fort Lauderdale office of the law firm Fisher & Phillips.

The workshop is made up of the heaviest hitters in the business world in Broward County: 100 executives from the county's biggest businesses that collectively employ tens of thousands of people.

In the back and forth at the Editorial Board, Moon and Caulkins provided a combination of official Broward Workshop positions, plus their own views about what's going on in the community.

Business leaders are concerned about the level of leadership in the county. "Where is the leadership in the county to get us to plan for the next several years?" Caulkins wondered


On the government end, it often seems disjointed, he said. The County Commission is led by a commissioner chosen each year to fill the largely ceremonial role of county mayor.

Moon said he is "absolutely" in favor of a countywide elected mayor. Previous efforts to push the idea failed for a couple of key reasons. First, it was opposed by county commissioners who feared losing some of their clout.

Second, Moon said, proponents couldn't come up with just what form a new county government should take. Should a mayor have strong executive powers or not? Should it be someone added to the County Commission or taken from the ranks of commissioners with the rest of their numbers reduced?

Among the other issues that the full workshop, Moon or Caulkins would like to see:

Nonpartisan elections for countywide officials.

Caulkins said he'd like to see countywide elected officials elected on a non-partisan basis without party labels, something he conceded would be difficult to achieve.

"It'd be a hard sell in Broward County for obvious reasons. The Democrats control all the constitutional offices," he said.

Clout with Republicans who control the U.S. House and state government in Tallahassee.


The need becomes apparent, Caulkins said, when it comes time to try for federal or state support for work at Port Everglades. "We have a very Democrat-controlled county. Something needs to be done to understand political realities and have an effective leadership that includes lobbyists … to get the interests of the state and federal governments to get money for that port."

Workshop leaders said they've been working with U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, and Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach. But Caulkins said there hasn't been outreach to U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican whose district includes part of South Broward.

Fiscal restraint by local government officials.

The economy is improving, which Caulkins said will start to mean more money flowing into government coffers.

"As the revenues come in where are they going to be spent? We certainly just don't want the spigot just to be opened up and checks written for things that might not be the central function of government," he said.

"I am worried about the natural inclination of people when you have access to more funds is to spend it. It's been a hard four or five years for these county commissioners, and some of them might be itching to spend a little money."